2016 Presidential Candidates: Where They Stand On Surveillance Vs. Privacy

As presidential candidates in 2016 are asked about surveillance and individual privacy rights, both Democrats and Republicans are learning that the questions are changing with technology. Surveillance is a question of liberty that is dividing parties differently and revealing their true persona, whether they want to own those revelations or not.

The 2016 presidential candidates vary considerably, and there is no clear party line on this issue. Few issues reveal an authoritarian leader more quickly than that of government surveillance of private citizens. Authoritarianism vs. Libertarianism is a completely different way of defining candidates than the usual conservative vs. liberal thinking we are accustomed to. The Political Compass has a top and bottom as well as a left and right.

So where do the 2016 presidential candidates stand? Oddly, Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders, and Ted Cruz come down most strongly against surveillance. That’s right, the Democratic Socialist and the Libertarian are on the same side of this issue. We have to stop thinking about left and right when it comes to this issue. Instead, we are talking about the up-and-down scale. Libertarians and Democratic socialists have no desire to use surveillance and control ordinary citizens, but mainstream politicians, regardless of party, may.

2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been the most outspoken on the topic. Sanders told Time Magazine how he feels in no uncertain terms.

“Do we really want to live in a country where the NSA gathers data on virtually every single phone call in the United States—including as many as 5 billion cellphone records per day? I don’t. Do we really want our government to collect our emails, see our text messages, know everyone’s Internet browsing history, monitor bank and credit card transactions, keep tabs on people’s social networks? I don’t.

“Unfortunately, this sort of Orwellian surveillance, conducted under provisions of the Patriot Act, invades the privacy of millions of law-abiding Americans.”

Presidential candidate Rand Paul couldn’t agree more. He was quoted on Naked Security by Sophos Ltd.

“There comes a time in the history of nations when fear and complacency allow power to accumulate and liberty and privacy to suffer. That time is now, and I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged.”

While it might hurt presidential candidate Ted Cruz to admit it, he backs Rand on this issue on the basis of conscience. He too is apparently a lover of freedom and liberty as Paul claims to be.

Republican debate
Republican debate (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Hillary could not disagree with Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul more. Clinton voted for and supports the Patriot Act twice and endorsed a weak NSA reform bill. Her attitude toward whistleblower Edward Snowden is that he deserves to be punished for giving the American people a glimpse at what the government is up to, as reported by Gizmodo.

2016 presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Hillary are apparently on the same page, as Rubio’s quote on Naked Security shows.

“The USA Freedom Act signed into law earlier this year left our intelligence community with fewer tools to protect the American people and needlessly created more vulnerabilities and gaps in information gathering used to prevent terrorist attacks at home and abroad.”

Not suprisingly, 2016 presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Ben Carson also lean in this direction.

As for popular candidate Donald Trump, his answer seems different, according to Naked Security.

“[Many Americans] would be willing to give up some privacy in order to have more safety.”

However, Trump has qualified his statement, approving of more surveillance of Muslims and other people who need to be tracked. What he is saying is if we watch those people that politically-correct notions have prevented us from properly watching from the beginning, we don’t have to watch everyone else quite so closely. So in this way, Trump sidesteps “the authoritarian or not” question this time. While he may well appear racist or anti-Islamic, he does not reveal his authoritarian teeth or his libertarian leanings if he has any.

[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]